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UK Government response to Khashoggi killing 'not sufficient', says UN expert

Saudi Arabia G20 Khashoggi

The UK Government’s response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has not been sufficient, a United Nations expert who authored a report into the murder has said.

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard urged the Government to make the findings of its investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist public.

Responding to a question from Press Gazette, Callamard also suggested that the UK impose sanctions on the assets of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in response to the murder of the journalist.

At a panel event at the Defend Media Freedom conference co-hosted by the UK and Canada in London today, Callamard said the kingdom could consider calling for an international investigation into the death of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year.

Callamard’s comments come a month after she published a 101-page report on her investigation into the killing of Khashoggi, which claimed there was “credible evidence, warranting further investigation” that Crown Prince bin Salman and other top Saudi officials may be liable for the murder.

It also pushed for Bin Salman to face further investigation over the murder, but said “no conclusion is made as to guilt”.

Saudi Arabia hit back at the report, saying it was based on “prejudice and pre-fabricated ideas”. The regime has long denied that Bin Salman had any involvement in the killing of Khashoggi.

It also previously claimed that the regime critic had not been killed, before later saying his death was the result of a “rogue operation”. It has charged 11 suspects with the murder with five facing the death penalty.

Callamard told Press Gazette: “So far the best response we have seen from a few governments, including the United Kingdom, has been public denunciation and individualised sanctions of people connected with the killing.”

But, she added: “As I have pointed out in my report that kind of response is well taken… but it is not sufficient. The individual targeting acts as a smokescreen in my opinion, a) because it does not target the State… and, b) because it didn’t target top officials.”

Speaking about what more the UK could do, she added: “The response from the UK has been fine but certainly not sufficient.

“What I have asked from them going forward is to first of all make public their findings of those who are responsible for the killings, in particular whoever is on that sanction list, to review the sanction list so it can have a state dimension.”

She went on: “It could call for an international criminal investigation… and a range of other things that could be more symbolic, more cultural.

“It could set up a Khashoggi fund calling on governments to come around it to invest in press freedom.”

The UN expert also repeated calls for the UK and other G20 countries to push for next year’s meeting of the world’s largest economies not to be held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh

Press Gazette has contacted the Foreign Office for a response to Callamard’s comments but has yet to receive a response.

The UK Government backed the decision to host the next G20 summit in Riyadh last week, saying it was “right that Saudi Arabia have been given the opportunity to host the summit”.

Other countries and powers were also criticised by the Special Rapporteur. Speaking at the Innovation to End Journalist Murders panel, she said: “I believe that the last eight months has shown the UN at its worst when it came to Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.”

She added: “I think this is a terrible reflection of what the UN should be as multilateral instrument at times of crisis.”

Her report also called on the UN Security Council to demand a “follow-up criminal investigation”.

Picture: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali/File

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